Special jerseys for Varsity Cup props
The 2014 Varsity Cup will feature a new jersey for props to wear which was designed with the help of South African Referees and will make binding in scrums easier.
Much has been made of the difficulty props experience in binding on the tight unyielding jerseys of the present time. There have been humorous suggestions of putting handles onto jerseys to make binding easier and more secure.
Secure binding is important at a time when the collapsed scrum has become a blight on the game and a source of serious concern to rugby authorities and law-makers.
NO LIMITS have a produced a jersey which will be easier for props to bind onto and easier for referees to ensure that props are binding in the right place. It will be obvious to all, including television viewers, when props are binding in the wrong place.
The development of the jerseys was a joint project between SARU Referees, NO LIMITS and Varsity Cup.
Balie Swart has been the practical leader in the development of the design. He was a Springbok prop from 1993 to 1996, including the Final of the 1995 World Cup. In 2007 when South Africa won the World Cup for a second time, Swart was the scrumming coach. Since then he has helped teams with their scrumming and is a committee member of SA Referees as a specialised coach of scrumming. In this capacity he has become an expert on both scrum laws and scrum techniques, the ideal man to lead such a project.
The development of the jersey was meticulous but is still regarded as a work in progress. Blue Bulls Under-19 and Under-21 players were the guinea pigs/models and the jersey went through 14 prototypes before the 2014 Varsity Cup jersey was achieved. But changes will be made where necessary. In fact NO LIMITS are already in Phase 2 of improvements.
The initial session with the players lasted an hour and a half. The differing needs of looseheads and tightheads required careful observation and powdered chalk was used to show the binding areas on the jerseys, where the preferred binding places were. This then went into testing various shapes and sizes on the jerseys with a secnd scrumming session at Loftus Versfeld.
The custom-made jerseys are normal jerseys with add-ons for props. Then by a special process , special grip material is transferred to the places required. Then there is a third and final process is where five grip buttons of a special foam type insert is attached to the jerseys and covered by special grip material, which is then knitted to the jersey.
There are three bodies involved in the development of the jersey – SA Referees who have the IRB's permission to experiment in the Varsity Cup and who gave legal input particularly under the guidance of Balie Swart; the product developers and sportswear manufacturer, NO LIMITS, who have invested time and capital into the development of the jerseys; and the competition provider, Varsity Cup who already have a relationship with NO LIMITS.
Competition testing is vital and the 52 special prop jerseys for the Varsity Cup 2014 are currently being handcrafted, by NO LIMITS who have tested it in wet conditions but it needs to know the effect of the hurlyburly of a match on the jersey, especially the effect of boots.
It's an exciting experiment to produce better, safer, less tedious scrumming.